By John Glennon
Just days away from the NFL’s scheduled start of free agency on March 17, it remains anyone’s guess how many of the 2020 Titans will be on the roster in 2021.
The team still has a whopping 18 pending unrestricted free agents, per Spotrac, a group that includes the likes of tight end Jonnu Smith, wide receiver Corey Davis and edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney. There are also six restricted free agents, a group highlighted by tight end Anthony Firkser.
This is not the kind of offseason that will allow the Titans to throw money around to re-sign a ton of players, as the team currently has just $4.7 million worth of cap space per Overthecap.
That figure will likely expand when players are released or when current contracts are re-structured, but things are still shaping up as more of a frugal free-agency period than in past years.
So, which of the current Titans should the team prioritize in terms of re-signing? Which should not be considered top priorities?
Here’s my list of the Titans’ top 10 re-signing priorities – as it applies to the team’s unrestricted free agents – and what it may take to bring them back:
Player: Jack Crawford
Position: Defensive lineman
What he did last year: In 16 games, which included nine starts, Crawford produced 28 tackles (the second-most of his career), two sacks and a career-best 10 quarterback hits.
Why re-sign him: The 32 year-old Crawford was a versatile contributor last season, lining up at a number of spots and playing more than 40 percent of the Titans’ defensive snaps. He also saw plenty of special-teams action, so Crawford could be of use to the Titan in 2021. But as we must remember with all the defenders on this list, their efforts didn’t produce much as a whole last season. So if there’s a younger, less expensive version of Crawford available, the Titans would be wise to go in that direction.
Player: Geoff Swaim
Position: Tight end
What he did last year: In 10 games last season, Swaim caught nine passes for 83 yards and one touchdown, averaging 8.3 yards per reception.
Why re-sign him: Swaim was inactive for the team’s first three games, but eventually found a nice niche, primarily as a run-blocker who also showed the ability to catch the ball. In fact, Swaim wound up with more offensive snaps and special teams snaps than Pruitt, who missed a couple of games on the COVID-19 reserve list. The 6-4, 260-pound Swaim brings good size to the position, and – given another year in the system – might show more of his pass-catching abilities. He caught 26 passes for Dallas in 2018.
Player: MyCole Pruitt
Position: Tight end
What he did last year: Pruitt served primarily as a blocker during his 11 games last season, but he did catch five passes – including two touchdowns – and averaged 9.8 yards per reception.
Why re-sign him: One of the NFL’s best rushing offenses needs good blocking tight ends, and Pruitt filled that role in the run game especially well last season, earning a career-best PFF grade of 71.1 in the run-blocking department. It doesn’t hurt that Pruitt can catch the ball on the rare occasions it’s thrown his way. He’s been a good contributor on special teams as well. Could the Titans find another player like this out there? Probably so. But Pruitt won’t cost big money, and he also now has three seasons of familiarity in the system.
Player: Ty Sambrailo
What he did last year: Sambrailo proved a worthwhile offseason addition as a reserve tackle, making five starts and getting at least 30 snaps in seven games before suffering a season-ending injury.
Why re-sign him: Quality back-up tackles have proven invaluable for the Titans over the past few years, as Dennis Kelly made a combined nine starts in 2018 and 2019. Sambrailo and David Quessenberry started a combined 11 games last season. Had Isaiah Wilson worked out, the Titans likely would have started the 2021 season with Kelly as the team’s third tackle. But as matters stand right now, the Titans need to fill that role. Why not do so with Sambrailo, who did solid work last season? As expected, he surrendered some pressures and sacks, but the Titans’ offense hardly fell apart following Taylor Lewan’s injury.
Player: DaQuan Jones
Position: Nose tackle
What he did last year: Jones posted a career-high 49 tackles and six quarterback hits last season, while tying his career high with four tackles for loss.